UGA Theatre opens this season with “Silent Sky,” written by Lauren Gunderson and directed by Vivian Appler.
Performances will be held in the Cellar Theatre of the Fine Arts Building on Sept. 29-30, Oct. 4-6 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 1 and 8 at 2 p.m. A ticketed preview performance will be held on Sept. 28 at 8 p.m. The Oct. 6 and 8 performances will feature ASL (American Sign Language) interpretation. Tickets are $18 or $6 for UGA students and can be purchased at ugatheatre.com/silentsky, by phone at 706-542-4400 or in person at the Performing Arts Center or Tate Center box offices.
“Silent Sky” brings to life the true story of Henrietta Leavitt, a brilliant astronomer whose groundbreaking discoveries changed the understanding of the cosmos. Fueled by determination, intellect and an unyielding spirit, Leavitt struggles against the societal expectations of the early 20th century in Gunderson’s thought-provoking meditation on perseverance, the pursuit of knowledge and the indomitable human spirit.
Appler is at the helm of UGA Theatre’s production—her first time directing for the department of theatre and film studies since joining its faculty in 2022. For Appler, a part of the appeal of “Silent Sky” is the depiction of its characters’ struggle against the social norms of the early 20th century while simultaneously depicting their scientific accomplishments.
“[Gunderson] explores levels of personal sacrifice and emotional depth experienced by these characters, aspects of their stories that are often smoothed over in scientific histories. We understand the high stakes of these choices because the characters are portrayed within overlapping (not separate) domestic, scientific and professional contexts,” Appler said.
As the first show of UGA Theatre’s 2023-2024 season, “Silent Sky” has been in production since the end of the spring 2023 semester. For scenic designer Nicky Tomlin, the long summer break provided an opportunity to fine tune design decisions.
“I reevaluated my process a bit based on some local artists I encountered while visiting family in Colorado. One in particular, Teri Rowan, provided a great deal of inspiration with her hyper-realistic, vibrant mixed-media pieces,” Tomlin said.
The ambitious design team has worked in unison—from lighting, costuming, scenery, media and sound—to portray both a specific period of time as well as the inner lives of the show’s characters.
“Through the costumes, I wanted to convey the passions and personalities of each character,” said second-year M.F.A. costume designer Courtlyn McCain. “Henrietta’s affinity for the night sky is reflected in the various blues and the hints of sparkle throughout her costumes while Annie, a warrior for women’s rights, wears shades of purple and yellow—the color of the women’s suffrage movement.”
In its second weekend, “Silent Sky” will feature ASL interpretation for the performances on Oct. 6 and 8. The ASL performances were made possible through coordination with Laurie Achin, a lecturer in the department of communication sciences and special education.
“We are thrilled to present ‘Silent Sky’ to the University of Georgia community and the wider public,” said Julie Ray, head of the department of theatre and film studies. “Dr. Appler has worked tirelessly with our actors and production team to put together an incredible production that celebrates the life of Henrietta Leavitt.”